First, a bit of an introduction. As the president and founder of the Business of Sports Network, I have been working as a sports busness analyst for about a decade now. The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Basketball, The Biz of Hockey, and The Biz of Football all fall under the Business of Sports Network. I also write for Baseball Prospectus, and provided essays in the 2007 Pro Football Prospectus, as well as Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders. For those interested in more details, you can see my complete bio here. – Maury Brown
It may seem odd to think of, but a baseball channel is about to rival the likes of MSNBC, the NFL Network, and actually, all comers when it comes to cable television channel launches. On January 20th of next year, Major League Baseball will launch the MLB Network to a staggering 47-50 million digital households, making it the largest cable channel launch in history.
Baseball has been swiftly building a 21-story highrise in Harlem to house the new network, and has hired the #2 at CBS Sports, Tony Petitti to be the President and Chief Executive Officer of the fledgling network.
And, when you think about it, baseball has a lot to offer for those that are into it.
Baseball’s history is certainly broader and longer than any of its American counterparts. There is a treasure trove of archival footage that MLB will roll out along with a handful of games each year.
But, it’s the staggering revenues that make MLB Network something to watch for, given the massive subsciber base at the launch. According to the NY Times:
¶Total cable subscriber fees of $112 million in 2009 and
$152.7 million in 2015, according to a presentation made to owners on
May 17 in Manhattan by the investment firm Allen & Company.
Baseball must split those revenues with cable and DirecTV.
¶Produce advertising revenues that will rise to $65 million in 2015.
¶Create an asset in the new network that Allen estimates is worth $1.2
billion to baseball, based on its two-thirds ownership stake. DirecTV
ended up with a 16.67 percent stake, Comcast with 8.34 percent, Time
Warner 6.35 percent and Cox 1.98 percent, based on their proportional
shares of subscribers in the network.
All of this is enough to make the NFL green with envy as they continue to work toward carriage deals for the NFL Network on the basic tier.
So, keep an eye peeled as the year ends. I suspect that there might be ads for the new network around the Super Bowl. When you have 50 million subscribers, and over a billion dollars in possible assets, MLB will be looking for a home run in the top of the 1st inning.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer.